Sunday, January 6, 2019

It's Only a Moment

Matthew Kelly, in his latest book, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, notes that holiness IS possible for everyone, and how we “can collaborate with God and create a single Holy Moment (that) is life-changing.”  We can begin the walk to becoming saints.  And he goes on to give dozens of examples of simple Holy Moments, starts on the path to sainthood.  I believe a summary of his book might be: “Holy Moments are possible.  Holiness is possible.”
I think Kelly’s words help me to re-frame my thoughts on life.
I was meditating before confession, considering what were my sins since my last confession, how they came about, and how I could put into action a resolve to avoid them in the future.  I think I used to think of sins as events, kind of like a film-clip snippet of my life.  A lot of things happen in my life --- in fact it goes on for 24 hours a day --- but sins, well, they were events on some days.  Sometimes you had to see the story of events before the sin, to see what led up to it, and sometimes you had to watch the events after it, to see its impacts and seriousness.  In fact, some of the film clips of my sin seemed rather long.  That’s why I always took time before confession to think things through.  Sometimes when I thought things out I may have concluded a sin rather minor, while one I hadn’t even noticed loomed large in its impact.  These thoughts helped me be serious about what I was confessing.
Recently, I was considering a sin and I recalled the words of St. Paul: “Why do I do the things I don’t want to do?”  I knew what this sin was; I didn’t want to do it, and yet I did.  And I asked myself why.  And then, God answered.  I heard Him ask me: “You often pray to know and to do my will, to be who I created you to be?”  And I said, “Yes, Lord.”  And then He asked: “At every moment?”  And then the event of my sin, the film clip which my mind was watching changed.  It stopped.  The story became a single, still picture.  A moment.  That was the moment I decided to sin.  And I argued with myself: “No, there were contributing factors, things that led up to and facilitated that sin.  Without those factors it wouldn’t have happened.”  And I heard God reply to my thoughts: “No, at that moment you decided not to do my will, but yours.  I KNOW.  I watched Adam and Eve do the same thing.  And I felt the same way about it.”
And I realized the truth of His words.
Matthew Kelly notes that our living as Christians --- true followers of Christ --- can begin with a single Holy Moment, a single moment when we resolve to do the will of Christ.  Our journey to become saints can start with but a single moment.  But, as my reflections noted, a single moment can also be a start to our being banned from eternal life with God.
It’s only a moment.  What causes us to make good or bad decisions in that moment?  I thought that it was the series of circumstances that happened to me, events that surrounded me.  But no, I now perceive decisions come from what’s within me.  In my heart, do I want to do the will of God for me, --- at every moment?
Certainly, the events with which I choose to surround myself influence my heart.  If I live in and around sinners, my heart will see sin in a lighter tone --- everyone does it.  If I live in and around people focused on living Holy Moments --- even if only occasionally --- my heart will perceive the great value of those moments.  And it is my heart which, at some critical moment, will decide.
Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, not a Jesus Who came to earth in the past, not a Jesus Who promises to come again, but a Jesus Who is here each moment.  He waits.  We choose.
It’s only a moment.  We’re born into this world.  Our parents may have given us a Holy Moment in Baptism, but soon we have to choose, and from our hearts.  Do we seek to fill our days with God’s will, Holy Moments, or do we choose not to do His will, and sin?  I think we sometimes pretend that thoughts on these matters are something “I’ll consider later.”  And the moments go by, and whether we believe it or not, we are making choices.
Choose to grow in holiness?  Choose to slip in sin?  It’s only a moment, and it’s only our life.  Every moment counts.
Every word, every gesture, every telephone call, every decision
we make should be the most beautiful one of our life,
giving our love and our smile to everyone, without losing a second.
Let every moment of our life be
the first moment,
the last moment,
the only moment.

-- Testimony of Hope, by Van Thuan
(who spent 13 years in communist prisons)

- - - - - - - - - -
Life is a mountain.
There it is, a summary in under 20 characters.  You can Tweet it out.  And if you are known as a somewhat serious person, many will read the words and say “Yup,” and move on.  But very few --- perhaps those who think of you as an intelligent person or even a holy one --- will consider the words more deeply, for life is no simple thing.
A one-minute consideration --- a lot for the attention span of most people these days --- will note that life DOES have ups and downs, and whether things are going good or bad just wait; things will change.  This might be the “analysis” of those who consider life a random thing, influenced by its surroundings.  Thinking this way gives people an excuse for the bad things that happen to them, or that they do: “It’s beyond my control.  Don’t blame me.”    (yes, I noticed someone who recently said similar words.)
A deeper consideration of life, perhaps time in study or time in prayer, sees not just the four words, but begins to see a three-dimensional picture of the words.  A mountain goes up and down; it narrows at the top; it widens at the bottom.  Beyond the bottom is plain earth, mud, everything the same.  Beyond the top is eternity; the narrowness of the peak opens into an immensity of beauty beyond. 
If life is a mountain, our life, we’re choosing to go up that mountain, or down it.  Our choices are those moments we spoke of.  Now there may be a path circling the mountain, neither going up nor down, but it’s likely to go in one direction or the other at some point.  Paths are rarely straight lines, and neither is life.
Thinking people know life is not a random thing; we make choices, and we have a reason for those choices.  A person of faith believes God when He says He wants us with Him in eternity, and even if we can’t see the top of our mountain we can see the light there, the light He spoke of.  And with study and prayer, it can become clearer.
Those who study the mountain of life note the implications of its size, wider at the bottom, and therefore there will be more paths to choose from.  And the paths down will be easier, in fact if you aren’t careful you may find yourself running down a path, or even falling and rolling down, beyond control.  Once you start down, it sometimes is difficult to stop.  The paths up, however, are fewer as the mountain narrows, and they are more work to take.  Indeed, some peaks are so steep you can’t get up them yourself, which is a good reason to find someone to travel with you through life, who strongly desires to go in the direction you do, to help you on the more difficult paths.
Life’s path sometimes seems long and weary.  But if we choose, moment by moment, to follow the path up, we will at some point have a view of the destination, and our resolve to enter the eternity won for each of us will become a joy.
They looked up and saw a star,
Shining in the East beyond them far.
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
-- Noel

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